TRENTON - Gov. Christie was introduced as the "first pro-life governor in New Jersey history" this afternoon during an antiabortion rally on the steps of the statehouse.

"Every life is precious and a gift from God," said Christie, coatless on the coldest day so far this winter, before hundreds of children and adults.

The Republican governor, who once was an abortion-rights advocate - or as he told the crowd, "not always on your side" - said his views changed after he heard the heartbeat of his daughter, Sara, now 14, three months into his wife's pregnancy.

"It was at that moment that it became clear to me that that's a life that deserves protection," Christie said. "This is an issue whose time has come."

The rally was among many around the country today, including one in Washington D.C., to mark the 38th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion.

In his remarks, Christie did not refer to any specific political initiatives related to his antiabortion beliefs, but he has drawn praise from some for cutting $7.5 million in state funding this year for 58 reproductive clinics.

A bill to restore the funds would have ensured that the money was not used for abortions, but Christie vetoed the legislation.

Contact staff writer Matt Katz at 609-217-8355 or mkatz@phillynews.com.